MINNEAPOLIS— A Minneapolis police use-of-force instructor testified Tuesday at former Officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial that officers are instructed to detain belligerent criminals with a knee on their back or shoulders if necessary, but to "keep away from the neck when feasible."
James Craigo told jurors that an officer who places a knee on a suspect's neck is not acting within the policy of the department. However, he said, an officer who uses force in other ways may not have any choice but to place a knee on a suspect's neck to prevent them from hurting themselves or others.
Chauvin is accused of killing 40-year-old Jamar Clark in November 2015 after an arrest for allegedly throwing a rock at a car. Video recorded by a police helicopter showed two officers pulling Clark to the ground before one kneels on his back and another puts a hand over his throat. An autopsy determined that Clark died from asphyxiation due to obstruction of airflow to the brain caused by the pressure of the body against the floor.
The trial is expected to last up to four weeks. If convicted, Chauvin could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Mercil stated during cross-examination by Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson that cops are instructed in some cases to place their knees over a suspect's back or shoulder and utilize their body weight to retain control. Mercil, on the other hand, stated, "We instruct cops to keep clear from the neck if feasible."
Additionally, Nelson asked if it was common for cops to get injured while on duty, and Mercil replied, "Yes." He continued, "About 10 percent of our population has a criminal record. That's 100 people out of 1000. So yes, we run into things that can be dangerous."
Finally, when asked if he would want his son to become a police officer, Mercil responded, "No."
Nelson then inquired as to whether this meant that Mercil did not think his son was capable of being an officer, to which Mercil replied, "Just no to policing."
In conclusion, police officers are not required to undergo any special training to kneel on the neck of a person they have detained. However, they do need to be aware of those situations where doing so would be necessary to prevent injury. Additionally, they should know how to respond to incidents that could lead to them being placed in a position where they must use their knees to restrain someone.
The use of restraint was referred to as "active aggression" by Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, the department's use-of-force coordinator. According to Hirschfield, much of Europe prohibits police personnel from employing various types of neck restraints, often known as chokeholds. In the United States, such holds are permitted by some agencies but not by others.
Police officers can use their hands and arms in restraining an individual. The four main methods used by police departments across the country to control suspects are: hand controls, arm bars, leg sweeps, and Tasers. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, one advantage of an arm bar is that it does not require an immediate response from witnesses or other officers. On the other hand, if an arm bar is applied improperly, it can cause serious injury or death. Hand controls and leg sweeps can be used to achieve the same result as an arm bar or leg sweep without risking injury to the witness or other officers if they are used properly.
In addition to these physical techniques, police officers may use verbal commands during encounters with suspects. These commands include "stop", "heel", and "assume the position". If an officer believes that another method should be used to restrain a suspect, he or she can request additional resources from nearby officers or supervisors.
Some states have laws that prohibit certain forms of active violence by law enforcement officers.
He claims that about 20 years ago, police training began emphasizing the need of avoiding the prone posture. In terms of chokeholds, he stated that those agencies that still use them generally emphasize employing a wrestling hold in which the officer wraps his arm around the person's neck and exerts pressure. This pressure can cause the victim to lose consciousness or suffer from asphyxiation.
In fact, according to one study, as many as 93% of people who come into contact with police officers experience some form of restraint. The use of restraints is most common during arrest processes (handcuffing and leg shackling are examples) but also includes situations where an officer uses their body to restrain someone (such as a chokehold or headlock) that does not lead to actual arrest.
Restraint practices are controversial because of the risk that they pose to citizens' well-being. Chokeholds in particular have been linked to increased rates of cardiac arrest and death. They have also been implicated in causing injuries to the throat, neck, and chest area.
Because of these risks, several organizations have called for their elimination from police practices. The National Association for Civil Rights says that handcuffing someone who has not yet been arrested is a violation of their rights because it prevents them from moving away from threatening circumstances.
Several large urban police agencies prohibit the knee-to-neck maneuver, although Minneapolis police allow officers to restrain defendants' necks if they are belligerent or resist arrest. Floyd was shackled and unarmed when he was pinned to the ground. The prohibition of this practice is for the protection of officers who might be injured while performing it.
The police knee-to-neck technique involves kneeling on the back of the head and neck of the suspect positioned face down on the ground. It is used as a quick way to subdue someone who may not be able to be handcuffed or who refuses to listen to orders to stop fighting or comply with other requests by officers.
The knee-to-neck restraint can cause serious injuries due to its use on an otherwise unharmed body. For example, it has been known to tear ligaments in the shoulders of people who are restrained this way. The hip bone can slip into the gap left by moving out from under the ribcage, causing a fracture.
In addition, there have been several cases reported where officers have lost their balance and fallen backward while using this technique on a resisting suspect, thereby injuring themselves.
Minneapolis police officers are trained in the proper use of force including the use of the knee-to-neck restraint.
According to the Minneapolis Police Department's policy handbook, neck restraints and chokeholds are only used when an officer believes he or she is in a life-or-death scenario. Mr. Floyd's incarceration did not appear to pose any such threat.
Minneapolis police officers are trained to avoid using force unless there are no other options available. If an officer decides that a neck restraint or chokehold is necessary, they first try to use other tactics to resolve the situation peacefully.
Neck restraints are applied by wrapping an elastic bandage around the victim's head to hold their jaw closed. This allows for the safe removal of any obstructions in the airway (such as a cellphone or other object) without risking injury from snapping teeth. The bandage can be adjusted as needed to relieve pressure off the throat and neck muscles.
Chokeholds involve grasping the back of the neck with one hand and squeezing hard enough to cut off the flow of blood to the brain. This technique is used only as a last resort because it is very dangerous to the health of the person being held. It can also cause serious long-term injuries to the carotid artery and jugular vein due to the significant amount of pressure required to stop someone's breathing.
In Mr. Floyd's case, there was no indication that these techniques were ever going to be necessary.